Plots in these "ridiculous" plays are often parodies or re-workings of pop-culture fiction, including humor and satire to comment on social issues. Improvisation plays a significant role in the plays, with the script acting as a blueprint for the action.
The Mystery of Irma Vep (Buffalo Theater Ensemble; The Art of the Quick Change)
The Mystery of Irma Vep (Kansas Repertory Theater; preview)
The Mystery of Irma Vep (Arizona Theater Company; clip)
The Mystery of Irma Vep (Arizona Theater Company; clip, act 2)
We will continue reading The Mystery of Irma Vep. As you read, notice the use of theatrical conventions.
REMINDERS: The marking period ends Nov. 8. No late work will be accepted after that date. Your play drafts are due Nov. 6. There will also be a marking period test on the material covered this marking period on Nov. 6.
HOMEWORK: Your play script drafts are due Wednesday, Nov. 6. There will also be a quarter exam on that date. Please study for your exam.
The plays & playwrights: [we read 13 plays so far during this course]
- The Colored Museum by George C. Wolfe
- The Mountaintop by Katori Hall
- Driving Miss Daisy by Alfred Uhry
- Spic-o-Rama by John Leguizamo
- 'Night Mother by Marsha Norman
- Oleanna by David Mamet
- "The Loveliest Afternoon of the Year" by John Guare
- "Words, Words, Words"; "Arabian Nights"; "Variations on the Death of Trotsky"; "Sure Thing" by David Ives
- The God of Carnage by Yasmina Reza
- The Mystery of Irma Vep by Charles Ludlam
- "The Play That Goes Wrong" by Henry Lewis, Henry Shields, & Jonathan Sayer
- The Vampire Lesbians of Sodom by Charles Busch
- Red Scare on Sunset, Tale of the Allergist's Wife, Psycho Beach Party, The Woman in Question by Charles Bush
How to create characters/characterization; tips about writing effective characters, plots, themes, and writing effective dialogue; etc. See handouts in particular!
Techniques to motivate and gather ideas (from the blog, articles, and class advice)
- Premise: a deeply held belief by the playwright which shapes a script.
- Conflict & the basic types of conflict
- Structural Unity: all parts of the plot (exposition, rising action, turning point, climax, resolution, etc.) should work and fit together.
- The classical unities: the unity of time, place, and action. A well-written play should encompass only a short amount of time, use one main setting, and have only one main plot (subplots can occur, but only one plot should be the main plot).
- Inciting Incident: the point of attack, the inciting incident forces the protagonist into the action of the play's plot.
- Major Dramatic Question (MDQ): the hook that keeps an audience interested in a play; a dramatic question that a reader/viewer wants answered by the end of the play.
- Major decision: A decision a character makes in the plot that creates the turning point for their character.
- The main event: the main plot or action of a play.
- The three C's: Conflict, crisis, complication: obstacles characters must face for an interesting and dramatic plot.
- Rising Action
- The dark moment/crisis: the lowest moment of a character's struggle--when all the world seems lost, the fight unbeatable, the "darkest hour before dawn" -- a stunning reversal of fortune and sense of failure.
- Deus ex machina: a contrived ending. Often one in which the characters did not have a hand in solving. (It is more interesting to see a character deal with their own problems rather than an outside force solving it for them.) literally, a "god from a machine"
- Enlightenment: When the protagonist understands how to defeat the antagonist. A revelation that begins the movement toward a climax.
- Roots of Action; Dramatic Triangle(s)
- Developing character, plot, and theme in a script (tips & advice)
- Ten-minute play format
- One act plays
- Full-length plays (2 or 3 act)
- Monologues/Soliloquies; internal/dramatic monologues
- Theatrical conventions
- Commedia d'ell Arte
- Cross-dressing; pantomime
- Generating ideas for plays
- The Event: a uniquely significant moment in the character's lives
- Time lock: setting up a time limit or specific deadline characters have to meet in order to spur them into action (for example having a script project due...)
- irreconcilable needs
- Obstacles, motivation and desires: the roots of action
- Universal truths/lies
- The vise
- Place & setting
- Realistic vs. suggested set designs (realistic sets and suggested sets & the use for each type)
- Scenario: an outline for a writer to identify major/minor characters, plot, and setting used BEFORE writing a script
- Catalyst: the event in the play that causes a character to take action
- Character flaw or tragic flaw
- Creating credible and well-developed characters
- Subtext: what is not said in a character's line. The subtext are the subtle details or clues used by the actor to develop their character.
- Beat: a short exchange of dialogue
- Different types of beats: physical, behavioral, inner-life
- Time lock: a deadline for a character to achieve his/her goal in a scene or play
- Signpost/Pointer: foreshadowing or hints that something will happen in a play
- Character types: major/minor, flat/round, dynamic, ally, foil, mentor, protagonist/antagonist, sympathetic/unsympathetic, etc.
- Confidante: a character the protagonist or antagonist can talk with to reveal necessary backstory
- Dialogue (tips and advice)
- Play development (advice & instruction on how to create a dramatic scene/play)
- At Rise: indicates the beginning of the play or act or scene
- Exit/Enters: directions to indicate a character/actor entering or exiting the scene in a playscript.
- Cross: indicates how a character moves from one place to another on stage.
- Curtain: indicates the end of an act or scene break
- Lights: indicates lights coming on or off stage.
- End of Play: indicates the play is over
- Motifs: repeated objects, symbols, or actions that hold significance or meaning in a story
- Theater of the Ridiculous
- Contributions of various playwrights: (see list above)
- Titles, characters, and plots of various plays we read (see list above)